Oxfam reaction to PIF Leaders’ Forum Communique: Australia and New Zealand need to go further and faster to help address the climate crisis in our region

Climate Change, Media Releases article written on the 15 Nov 2023

Oxfam welcomes the acknowledgement by Pacific leaders that the response to the climate crisis must involve a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels, but highlights that leaders need to set clear timeframes for action using genuine science-based targets to meet the needs for the Asia Pacific region in response to the climate crisis. 

“The reluctance to commit to a timetable for a rapid phase out of fossil fuels means that leaders are still not serious about staying within 1.5 degrees of warming, with the lives and cultures of so many people across the Pacific threatened as a result,” said Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain. 

“We can only speculate about the pressure that is being brought to bear on Pacific countries by fossil fuel producers and the Australian and New Zealand Governments to tone down demands for a rapid transition.

“While we also welcome Australia’s commitments to contribute to the Green Climate Fund and the Pacific Resilience Fund, Australia is still yet to say how much it will contribute. It’s time that Australia made its commitments clear,” said Ms Morgain. 

Oxfam analysis shows that Australia’s fair contribution to the global target of mobilising US$100 billion per year for climate finance is $4 billion annually, but to date the Australian Government has only committed to $2 billion between 2020 and 2025, effectively $400,000 per year or only 10% of its share of global funding.  

Oxfam says that the funding desperately needed by communities at the front lines of the crisis could be found from re-directing the $11 billion that Australia currently spends each year on fossil fuel subsidies, which is helping to accelerate climate change. 

Australia is one of the biggest per capita emitters of climate pollution driving the climate crisis, and a wealthy country by global standards. Meanwhile, people in the Pacific are paying the highest price in climate impacts and have the least resources to cope.  

“Last week, we joined Pacific civil society in calling on leaders to commit to a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels. Instead, we saw Pacific leaders pay mere lip service to this urgent call,” said Oxfam in the Pacific’s Executive Director Eunice Wotene. 

“The science is clear, the only viable way forward is an unwavering commitment to giving up fossil fuels entirely, a move that will safeguard our land, our ocean and our resources – as our ancestors have done for generations before us. And so, it’s disheartening to witness the reluctance of some Forum leaders in embracing this imperative and to witness the pleas of Pacific Islanders undermined by the interests of powerful nations with outsized contributions to the climate crisis. Pacific Islanders do not want symbolic gestures or aspirational language – we need concrete commitments and courageous leadership. Anything less is an affront to Pacific communities and a betrayal of our urgent call for climate action,” Ms Wotene said.  

Australia can rapidly transition to a decarbonised economy, and at the same time contribute its fair share to help those countries who are hardest hit and least responsible for the climate crisis. Australia can start by redirecting its $11 billion per year of fossil fuel subsidies towards public climate finance.  

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the leaders of the incoming government have suggested reopening offshore exploration for new oil and fossil gas. This would be inconsistent with the commitments that all Pacific Governments have made at the Pacific Island Forum to a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels. 

“Across the Pacific our people deserve and need a fast and just transition, where a managed decline of fossil fuel production is matched with the creation of good jobs in renewable energy, clean industries and social services. It would be absurd to go looking for new fossil fuels in a climate crisis, when we know that just the oil and gas in currently active fields would take us past 1.5 degrees,” said Oxfam Aotearoa Climate Justice Lead Nick Henry. 

“Pacific civil society have called on the New Zealand and Australian Governments to stand with the Pacific, not with the fossil fuel industry. We want our political leaders to stand united with the rest of the Pacific and take a bold, clear call for a global end to fossil fuel production all the way to COP28 in Dubai,” said Henry. 

It is also crucial that we ensure that funding flows through mechanisms that are directly accessible and reach communities on the front line of the crisis. Neither the Green Climate Fund or the Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership that Australia has announced it will fund will deliver directly to Pacific local communities.  

Australia and New Zealand will be under pressure to increase funding as international climate negotiations head towards new climate finance commitments for beyond 2025 at COP29 next year. 


For interviews, contact Lucy Brown on 0478 190 099/ lucyb@oxfam.org.au